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eulogy for my father

September 27, 2011 1 comment

Its coming up on six months ago since Dad passed away. I’ve been missing him as baseball season winds down. He  would have been so happy seeing his Tigers winning the division and playing so strong going into the playoffs. He admitted to me that it was a bigger deal the Tigers winning the World Series then me being born back in 1968. They hadn’t won since 1947 and he had other kids. He denied it when I teased him about it later but I didn’t take offense. There was no competition in his love for baseball, it was welcoming and  I knew it didn’t mean he didn’t love me a lot, he just really loved baseball. Watching it with him taught me some of its nuance. I’m still not really patient enough for baseball but its coming.

I wrote the first half the night that Dad died. It opens very strident and I guess I was mustering gumption to do something different, defy convention. The second I wrote the weekend after and put most of a week into feeling my grief full time. And walking the dog. It was time well spent and Dad had an easy story to tell and I was blessed to be privy to the details.

These words brought me a lot of comfort and I am indeed blessed to have been raised in such away to cultivate them. Dad was really a poet. One of the last things really hit his lyricism, “I’m so tired of holding my eyes closed”. He could be sparse like that, spare I guess is a better word. Well its already a long piece so I shouldn’t put in too much of a prologue, except to say I hope it makes you think and if it brings you comfort I’m glad.

“Eulogy For My Father”

3780 words or so

 

“This above all, to thine own self be true. “ I am not really a minister and I don’t really want to be doing this. I am a grieving son and I want to be sitting next to my brothers and sisters, crying some, laughing some, squeezing an arm in reassurance, an arm across my back in love and support. I want to hear words of beauty and consolation in celebration of a life well lived by someone who knows and loves my Dad and will tell his story with truth, compassion, and respect, in accord with what my dad believed in a way that resonates with what I believe, with what we all believe. That was simply not going to happen. There is a narrow band of belief that dominates most discourse on matters of the spiritual. If you adhere to one of its dominant strains you might not have even noticed, or only noticed the slight difference when you hear someone talk from another dominant strain. But many of us are outside of that, un-believers or simply un-churched. We patiently sit through funerals, weddings and the like and listen to stuff that is irrelevant at best and often frankly offensive. So if I talk about some stuff that church people feel uncomfortable with just hang in there and bear with me, hold on to what is good. Believe it or not, I’m trying to be a uniter not a divider. Take what you need and leave the rest. But for a half hour at least these words are mostly, for the rest of us.

Mr. John Paul Trapp Senior has a story that is long and complicated. It spans generations, a continent, and is in small part outside the bounds of what the masses of men believe perhaps, at least what men say they believe. Funerals are fundamentally an act of the sacred and need touch upon the ineffable, the spiritual wonder of the transition to the next great adventure, or how else are loved ones to be comforted?

John was never comfortable about talking about spiritual things. When asked what he believed I always described his spiritual orientation as backslidden Christian. He believed in that whole thing, sort of, but wanted to do what he wanted to do. Mostly drink beer and smoke cigarettes work hard and raise his kids right. So how does a backslidden Christian raise his children? He exposes them to church, lots of them, if they want. Doesn’t encourage it or discourage it, but makes it clear he is not really into talking about it. He’d heard enough about it already, he would say.  Enough to feel judged, unworthy perhaps; but also defiant, resilient, and able to stand on his own two feet.

About a year ago Dad solemnly informed me that he had become an atheist. What???? An atheist at 73? Who does that? There are no atheists in foxholes the liars say who preach a spirituality of cowardice, of toadyism for rank gain, a theology of threats and bribes.

Dad had been watching the Discovery Channel and had heard about the Big Bang and it seemed a lot more reasonable, he informed me.  And the Big Bang is a beautiful and wondrous way to understand where we all come from. Condensed to a single point, a place with no dimension, only location. Containing all the matter in the universe. And then bam, everything there is flying apart in all directions, hundreds of millions of years pass and the uniform layer of hydrogen has ripples and perturbations and clumps coalesce and begin burning through nuclear fusion and stars are born and grow the heavy elements and die and explode and the star stuff keeps flying apart. Bigger and bigger.

12 billion years pass and dirt and such collects and spins around a midsized yellow sun on the spiral arm of a typical galaxy that we like to call the Milky Way, and so is born the planet Earth.

It is a beautiful story in its stark simplicity, and the lesson it teaches is the truly grand scope of creation. It has all the more power for being factually undeniably true. You can generate testable hypotheses and learn more about its nature, that is how science advances. In all the creation stories of all the peoples the Actual Truth turned out to be far more vast and far more wonderful. For when John declared his independence from the belief in god he was not rejecting the God Who Made the Universe. He was rejecting some weird little cartoon god he had heard about when he was a kid. A god who rejected all that was fun and demanded the humorless life of a drudge. A god who judged and made one feel small and unworthy.

I took John’s atheism as a step in the right direction. A rejection of something that should be rejected. And the universe is a vast and wondrous place. Currently in my day job I am a substance abuse counselor and I wrestle with helping addicts find a source of spiritual support when drugs and alcohol have taken control of their life. It is no accident that a chapter in the AA Big Book is called “We Agnostics”. Recovery is developing a way of life that is so positive, healthy and fulfilling there is no longer any room for nonsense, and so it becomes an exercise in serenity. And so they say: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

But what of atheists and agnostics, is sobriety denied to them?  Not by any means. I have heard a number of workarounds, Good Orderly Direction (G.O.D.), the program, door knobs and file cabinets, anything to reject the toxic selfishness inherent in addiction.  I, a little from the outside, as a treatment person not a recovery person, humbly propose the Universe. The universe is sufficient for the serenity prayer and has the advantage of being self-evident to all. ‘For I believe the universe exists for I have seen and heard parts of it. I have tasted of the summer fruit and smelled the coming rain; felt the gentle breeze as it rolls across the plain.”

The serenity prayer neatly divides the universe into two categories and gives us advice on how to deal with both. First, there is everything under our control. And what is under our control? Only our own actions and those we meet with bravery. Everything else, literally everything that is not our own actions are outside of our control, and so we meet everything with acceptance. The intersection of bravery and acceptance is where we find wisdom. And the universe is sufficient for the serenity prayer. It will hold the things we must accept, it is sufficient for serenity. It offers peace in a time of loss. You can say it with me if you want to try it on for size. “Universe grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

So does a belief in the Universe as science understands it preclude a belief in God? Absolutely not. 96% of Americans believe in God and that included Einstein and most scientists. The universe doesn’t compete with God as creator but is the fundamental proof of the scope of creation and that its source must be vast and mighty. For this message is not one of atheism or agnosticism for I am fact am a believer, a passionate dedicated believer in the God Who Made the Universe.  This universe, the real one. Personally I believe that like my body has a spirit which animates me the physical universe has a spirit which animates it. But I know what I believe is not what everyone believes and for today I want us all to reach for common ground in which to lift up the spirit of John Trapp in communion and love for remembrance, celebration, and comfort.

For even though he called himself atheist once, Dad told me that Mom was waiting for him. Dad was on a ventilator toward the end and when they took him off and brought him out of sedation, he told me, he had died, and he told me, with assurance, that Mom was waiting for him. I believe him. It is in her character. It is about all I ever saw my mom do. And so it begs the question if Mom was waiting for him where exactly was that? I can honestly say that dad didn’t care and didn’t put much thought into it. I already said he was uncomfortable on matters of the spirit. He was not uncomfortable in contradiction. And neither am I. The truth is too vast the universe too big to not contain many contradictions.  I like to believe in a personal god who cares about me. I like to believe in a universe governed by immutable natural laws that can be known and predicted and depended upon. I like to believe in miracles. I like to believe that Mom and Dad still live still love me and care about me, still speak to me with their wisdom. I know they still live in my heart if nowhere else.

John Trapp was a simple man and when I asked him how he wanted to be remembered it was as a Working Man. He worked hard growing up on an organic farm, though in those days they just called them farms. He was born in the heart of the Great Depression and the war years were lean ones on the home front. But the Trapp family was self-sufficient in a way that now we can scarcely understand. He had to churn the butter, pluck the hens, weed the row crops, feed the animals, there are others here who know these stories better than I so I will leave it at that he worked hard even as a small boy. But he played hard too. Fondly remembered tales of hijinks and adventure, messing around with the dogs, sledding, skating, hunting, how he earned his switchings, his sister Alice and her friends holding him down and kissing him.

But mostly he talked about working. Mowing grass, being the first to get a chain saw and cutting down trees. Hiring out as a farm hand, eventually for his sister Norma and her husband Joe. When the season ended he moved to the kill floor, slaughtering beef, hogs, and veal. It was a short trip from there to being a meat cutter. A dollar an hour until the union came and then he moved up to $2.65 cents an hour. Good money in the 50s and he still played hard. Drinking, dancing, roller skating, shuffle board and pool leagues, convertibles and drag racing; mishaps and near escape. Some reckless driving in Monroe that inexplicably ends with him joining the army. Trained as a mechanic he was stationed in Germany when the Berlin Wall was doing its Berlin Wall thing. There he developed a lifelong love affair with trucks. Most of his army stories though are about baseball or drinking beer. Good local beers with each town its own.

After his time in the service he returned home and to meat cutting, bought himself a brand new 1963 Ford Falcon Convertible, courted and married Frances Eileen Allen. He didn’t care that she had three kids he loved kids and promised to raise them as his own. John still had a little growing up to do but rose to the occasion with his readymade family and tried to be a good father to Bob, Betty and Brenda and three more boys when they came. Dad worked hard and we camped in Lake City in the summers.

Tragedy struck early and hard on this little family when John’s youngest son Dennis drowned in the swimming pool in the backyard. Dad blamed himself as the army had only taught him adult CPR and he later learned it was different for little kids. He drank beer and pitched horseshoes, all four by himself. Eddie Trapp came over and walked with him, no one had anything to say. Dad couldn’t handle family life anymore. He was broken in a way that luckily few of us will ever get to really understand. It was only 7 or 8 years ago that he told me he had finally gotten over Dennis dying. He went on a six month drunk from what I understand I am too young to remember.

He couldn’t stay home and didn’t believe in leaving, John was no coward, so all there was to do was to become a truck driver. He bought a straight truck and started hauling furniture for Beakins Van Lines. He would always point out the parking lot where he learned to drive when we drove through Circle City, as he liked to call it. North America became his home.

He took his first trip and was frightfully lonely. I had the great pleasure of finding and reading some of his letters home to Mom, before moth and rust destroyed, and they were heartfelt and touching. A demonstrative loving side of John I had never seen.  On his second trip he threw me up in the cab with him and we were off to see the country. I was three years old. I would stay up all night to help keep him awake and we would talk about everything. I was his confidant, sounding board, and in many ways the repository of his hopes and fears. What an incredible gift to give to a child, your total attention, sharing from your heart. Showing him the country. I am so incredibly blessed I cannot describe. Having such an enriching early childhood in large part shaped who I am today. I was able to learn that people live all kinds of different ways and you can go to places and see stuff.

Dad was a character on the road. He knew this country comprehensively. Everywhere. He gave his own names to the flowers he saw. He knew the phases of the moon and how the stars change overhead with time and distance. He grew to be wise. He learned to instantly make friends. To make the most of a chance encounter. To be real with people. He stayed true to Fran though she had her doubts as she had seen him flirt, a lot. But he stayed true to her in death as he did in life and as easy and convenient it would have been to find another woman to take care of him. Instead he struggled on alone learning how to take care of himself for the first time in his life.

Hauling furniture was hard work. He would work hard all day and drive all night, running hard after the elusive dollar. But he also learned the culture of the truck driver and prided himself on acting as a Professional Driver. Driving safely and courteously, safeguarding fellow travellers, and caring for shared spaces. Looking for opportunities to do someone a good turn. Flashing in trucks when they passed with his running lights a quick flash of thank you when another truck did the same. He was also a friend to hitchhikers and transients, scooping them up giving them honest work and a chance to see the country, starting many in a career.

He helped many a stranded motorist or someone just down on their luck. Early in his career he was the first on the scene when a truck had smashed into a pick up full of migrant workers. There were bodies all over the road the truck driver who caused the accident was weeping and doing nothing. Dad began pulling bodies off the road, living or dead he could not always tell but he had no assurance traffic would stop and it needed to be done. He was a brave man who acted with honor whatever the cost.

Once after he was done with furniture and hauling freight for BJ McAdams he picked up a hitchhiker in spite of the company rule against it because the kid wasn’t wearing shoes. He drove him somewhere, bought him a meal and gave him some money, and didn’t think much of it. Some months later he was tracked down by a private investigator from a fuel slip. The kid had remembered his handle, Trapper John in those days and John was flown in as a surprise witness in a Perry Mason kind of way and exonerated the kid from a bogus charge of armed robbery. Dad did a lot of heroic shit. Stopped rapes, beat men down for disrespecting women and was pulling out his deer rifle out of his truck when the police gunned down a mass killer in a bar he was drinking in. If the cops had been three minutes later John would have taken care of it himself.

He ended his long career, 37 years and well over five million miles driven without a major accident with Anderson Trucking, ATS. Dad loved Harold Anderson, a war hero, truck driver who parlayed his truck and a granite contract into a billion dollar company. He treated John square. They recognized Dad’s excellence and made him a trainer. As racist and sexist as John could be they tried to give him all the women and black folks because he treated people decent and gave everyone a fair shot.

John hauled freight and ATS specialized in specialty loads. A lot of granite and all kinds of big stuff, mining equipment, giant machines, and cranes. It allowed him to be a piece of history. He hauled in granite for the FDR memorial. He hauled scaffolding for crowd control for presidential inaugurations. He hauled a fair chunk of our industrial capacity to the Mexico border and brought back the things we used to make here. He hauled pieces of the space shuttle. He hauled the Disney Parade and towed the Goofy Car in the parade when it wouldn’t start. At the end of his career he specialized in Wind Mills. Technically difficult blades being 150’ long the rear wheels of the trailer were steered by an escort driver. He also loved being part of something good, something for the future. He drove truck until he was 70 about as old a driver as I have ever seen.

Retirement brought some new challenges but also some new joys. He got a little dog he named Myrtle. He had always called his trucks Bessie and his trailers Myrtle and Myrtle followed him around like a little trailer and was a faithful friend when he suddenly for the first time in his life had time on his hands. She was a little dog a chow mix with a leaky heart valve that left her short winded and easily tired. John could relate he was as well by this time. He struggled to pay the bills on a fixed income and could not work his way out of his spending problem like he always could in the past. I made him a deal, I would buy a house if he would come and live with me and help me with the upkeep.

It was a beautiful arrangement that renewed his sense of meaning to his life. Work, that could be done but didn’t need to be done. Perfect for a working man winding down. As my friend Lisa said in a consolation message: “Mike, I’m so sorry about your dad. I know that he has been a huge part of your life these past few years and you will feel his absence every day. You made such a difference to him during these past few years. I could tell that being part of your bustling, friendly household made him feel connected and loved. You took such good care of him.”

As Dad began to decline he began to lose interest in things. It’s a process I’ve seen over and over as people prepare for death. The Tao Te Ching 16th chapter speaks to this and has been a source of strength and guidance for me since my mom was dying:

Empty your mind of all thoughts.
Let your heart be at peace.
Watch the turmoil of beings,
but contemplate their return.

Each separate being in the universe
returns to the common source.
Returning to the source is serenity.

If you don’t realize the source,
you stumble in confusion and sorrow.
When you realize where you come from,
you naturally become tolerant,
disinterested, amused,
kindhearted as a grandmother,
dignified as a king.
Immersed in the wonder of the Path,
you can deal with whatever life brings you,
and when death comes, you are ready.

If you wonder why we had John cremated it’s because he’d be spinning in his coffin as I have decided to end with a song. John had to abandon music when he married a woman who not only was tone deaf but could only make tone deaf children.  I sing this not only because it is the only song I have written about John but I wrote it when Mom was dying and it speaks to what I believe about these things.

When your wife is dying in the summer time

The ministers go on vacation

The road workers do their excavation

But the truck driver stays at home

Alone with his regrets

He drinks cheap beer and he frets

About his dying wife and his debts

And if he should have stayed on the road so long.

And when your mom is dying in the summer time

The birds still sing in the morning

The red skies give the sailors warning

But the sad boy does not sail on

Alone with his worst fears

He stifles back his tears

He tries to bring his family cheer

As he writes another sad sad song.

And when someone’s dying in the summer time

People still go to the beach

But happiness is so far out of reach

We just all stay home

And we sit alone together

And talk about the weather

And what’s going to happen to Heather

When her grandma dies before too long.

But the birds still sing when we mourn

And with every death new life is born

We’re all just part of the Goddess anyway

So I’ll wipe away my tears

And learn to face my fears

And know there’s a new part of God to hear me pray

I know there’s a new part of God to hear me pray.

Another Friday Night…

September 17, 2011 Leave a comment

Killing time before the Tigers game comes on. I have to work tomorrow so don’t know how deep I’ll be able to get into the game with it not coming on until 9:00. They have a chance to clinch the central division and its nice to end the season strong. I like our chances. Spent some time after dinner weeding the strawberries. They really took it on the chin in the heat wave (probably should have watered them more) and a lot of grass came up in the newly opened space. I especially wanted to get the fox tails, last thing I want is one of this bristles stuck up one of the dog’s nose. Cost my brother like a thousand bucks when it happened to Smokey. Also need to mow, but tired yesterday, and kind of wet today. Got some wild flowers blooming, wish i knew all their names, but the asters by the mail box are especially pretty. Saw more then a few of those in the Nantahalas along with fancy goldenrod, phlox, and a bunch of other stuff  i couldn’t ID or can’t remember. There were a lot of these orange pitcher flowers by our second camp site. Even though it wasn’t a legit dispersed site in the National Forest (too close to both a paved road and a picnic area) I was glad we stayed a second night because a beautiful little hummingbird got comfortable enough with us to feed on the orange flowers. It worked its way through the little jungle of them for quite a while. There’s always something magical when they stop by and I am looking to get more flowers in, in front of my picture window and in the back to draw more in. I’ve upgraded to black sunflower seed instead of the cheap mixes and it has drawn a better class of birds. John got me a squirrel guard, a plastic dish that tilts when you put weight on it  that has kept out the squirrels and of course the dogs help. Fido has them all running out to the feeder whenever someone opens the back door or yells squirrel. I trimmed up Fido some tonight, straightened up his mustache and got some long spots and some spots that were matted and worked out from his pre-vacation cut. They had been annoying me the whole trip and I was glad to get it done. I had left his little penis hair but it was getting to be better then 2 inches long and John was teasing me so I trimmed that too. He doesn’t care for the manscaping and I can’t blame him after what happened to his balls. I wanted to share more about my vacation but after being back a couple days it already feels far away and long ago. I didn’t take a computer and instead had this great idea of blogging in a book instead. The links are hard but its really revolutionary. I realized I don’t self-censor as much here as much as I thought as my writings for myself weren’t much different, although I would be lying if I said they were exactly the same. Over-sharer that I am I still hold a lot back for the general prevue. I may share some excerpts or use it as a draft maybe this weekend. I have to work a half day tomorrow so no market. I will probably go to Wilsons to get at least some local produce. I was going to wait until Sunday and go to the art/vegetable market at bus station but I want to make barbecued beef and need some sides. Maybe I’ll do carnitas instead and go to the grocery store. its not a bad idea anyway the cupboards are, if not bare, have some room and the fridge is bare. I did make it to the market last Saturday in Franklin North Carolina. It was small but friendly and we got some local tomatoes (not as good as home), a jalapeno, pimento, green beans and okra which livened up our tuna and noodles and our canned chinese food (man that stuff has really gone done hill). We also got a little zucchini bread which was not as good as the ones i get locally (or make for that matter). that would be a good weekend activity, i’ve got a brown banana in the freezer. Franklin was a cool little town though. Caught breakfast twice at the City Diner. Had the Gypsy Omelet which was hash and swiss, pretty yummy and it was cheap. We drove past a place in a strip mall that didn’t have any customers on a weekend and found the City Diner with a lot full of pick up trucks. Pa Miller taught me that was the way to find good eats in the country, god rest his soul. There was also a cool indian mound with some history that it had been an important city of the Cherokee before they got f*cked and they kept the village center on the mound. It was an important battle(the battle of echoe) there where the Cherokee won one year quite handily but got beaten decisively a year later. Would have liked to check out more Cherokee stuff when we were out there, but we stuck to the woods. Looks like its time to call Harry and tell him can’t go to the market and watch a few innings before hitting the hay. Good night faithful reader and sweet dreams.

“Village Burner”

With the 4th of July upon us once again I saw a post about Indians and the Revolutionary War. We like to think the war was about freedom and self determination or even taxation but one of the biggest causes were the colonists impatience with the British’s more moderate policies towards Native Americans. The British agreed to close off settlement West of the Appalachians and the Colonists were eager to steal those rich lands. Washington himself was a surveyor and land speculator eager to seize Indian lands for his personal profit. Besides being the cause of the war the ruthlessness of how the Colonist insurgents prosecuted the war against the Native Americans took warfare to a whole new level. Unable to track down the warriors causing us such trouble Washington ordered the villages attacked, the women and children killed and the corn burned. “Village Burner” is my attempt to tell the truth on this awful event in American history.

They didn’t call him the Great White Father

They didn’t call him Dear Old George

They never talked about no cherry tree

To the Mohawk he was a scourge

They called him Village Burner

He invented Total War

To make war on the women and the children

They’d never seen his like before

And Washington was a land speculator

And not just a holder of slaves

He surveyed and sold much Indian land

To many a worthless knave

And long before Adolph Hitler

Came to his Final Solution

Washington sought to rid the land

Of people he considered pollution

And they called him Village Burner

We must not forget his sin

To make war on innocent civilians

I hope we never see his like again

Categories: history, poetry

“Battle of Fallen Timbers”

I saw the Toledo Metroparks are having a March Forth on March Fourth and they are walking the site of the Battle of Fallen Timbers. If you are not a student of history there was a time in the Indian Wars when they were a lot more close. After the Revolutionary War the standing army of the United States was defeated by a coalition of Native American Tribes several years running. Washington finally pulled Anthony Wayne out of retirement who shaped up a pretty tight army which slowly and methodically beat back the indians across the Ohio country culminating in the final battle close to Toledo. Since I’m writing this in English and not Shawnee you can guess who won. In the midwest there is a lot of stuff named for Anthony Wayne most notably Fort Wayne but not so much for the indians. Here’s my poem on the subject again taken from my chapbook “America: Tales of Atrocity and Near Escape”. Ask me for a copy and i’ll give you one.

The Battle of Fallen Timbers

Gave us Mad Anthony Wayne

But the Indians who fought and died there

No one remembers their names

If Deja Vu didn’t have a name

Would I still feel like I’ve been here before?

If there weren’t just a few so incredibly rich

Would there have to be so many billions of poor?

And the winners right the history books

Always to cover their shame

And the winners get so self righteous

They’re never the ones to blame

If Deja Vu didn’t have a name

Would I still feel like I’ve been here before

If there weren’t just a few so incredibly rich

Would there have to be so many billions of poor

Shawnee

Delaware

Miami

Chippewa

Seneca

Ottawa

Potawatomie

Chiksika

Chief Pipe

Seekaboo

Tecumseh

Little Turtle

Stands Between

Weh-yah-pih-er-sehn-wah (Blue Jacket)

Thick Water

Big Fish

Turkeyfoot

Categories: history, poetry

Talgayeeta

February 21, 2010 2 comments

Here is another poem from my chapbook “America: Tales of Atrocity and Near Escape”. He was another great American that no one has ever heard of. Greatly influenced by the Quakers in Pennsylvania he was a peace and freedom loving guy who left the Iroquois country for Ohio to start the Mingos. Mingos were a tribe of Indians from several different tribes who came together in a voluntary mutual association. Unfortunately the Whites had invaded the hunting lands of the Shawnee and others (Kentucky) and when the Shawnee struck a militia was formed for retaliation and they took it out on the peaceful Mingos. Again my thanks to Alan Eckhart for his great histories of the struggle for the Midwest.

Talgayeeta was the son of a chief

Of the people called the Cayuga

They were a warlike nation

In the Iroquois Confederation

But Talgayeeta had found a better way

When the French and British fought

He wouldn’t go to war

He made peace where ever he was able

All the peoples of the tribes

And the white folks too

Were all welcome to his table

Talgayeeta, son of Shikelelemus

Talgayeeta, called by some Logan

Talgayeeta, taught to be a man of peace

But were the whites gonna let him be?

He left his tribe to move to the West

The land from which the wind blows

He started a new tribe where everyone was chief

And they called themselves the Mingos

Now Mingo means chief

And each was their own

It was homegrown Anarchy

And peace that were sown

Talgayeeta, called by some Logan

Talgayeeta, left the Susquhana

Talgayeeta, strove to be a man of peace

Talgayeeta, but where the whites gonna let him be?

Talgayeeta was away on a hunt

When the Kentucky Militia arrived

Welcomed as friends they turned on their hosts

And not a Mingo in the village survived

When Talgayeeta returned from his hunt

And saw what the white men had done

He pulled out his hatchet and cried out for vengeance

And swore he would kill a dozen for one

Talgayeeta, buried his unborn nephew

Talgayeeta, buried his whole family

Talgayeeta, lived to be a man of peace

But the whites wouldn’t let him be.

So the man of peace picked up the sword

And he led off the Mingos to war

He took a dozen white scalps for each of his tribe

And kept to the vow that he swore

But the waging of war has terrible costs

He took to drinking to ease his pain

And he was drunk when the assassin shot him in the back

And we’ve never found his like again

Talgayeeta, son of Shikelelemus

Talgayeeta, called by some Logan

Talgayeeta, tried to be a man of peace

But the whites wouldn’t let him be.

Categories: history, poetry

St Valentines Day

February 15, 2010 Leave a comment

I had a bit more of a traditional St Valentine’s Day weekend than a single guy has any right to expect. To get it you have to understand the origins of the day. According to legend St Valentine was a priest who continued to marry soldiers after the emperor banned the practice fearing it would weaken the army. So Valentines Day should really be more of a celebration of marriage than romance.

That being said Saturday night i went out with a young couple to Sycamore a fancy restaurant with a seasonal/local menu to plan their May wedding ceremony. This will be my 9th wedding (not counting my own) and my first since Halloween 2003. I did my first wedding in the late 90s when a friend asked if i could do their ceremony. I looked into it, got ordained on the internet for the Universal Life Church, and applied f0r my license to solemnize marriages in the State of Ohio.

It went really well, the bride asked me to be sincere and that has been my watchword. Personalized and sincere. I really like doing weddings, its an exciting time to share with people and it is one of the few times in our society that we ask ultimate questions of what we really believe in. Most of the people who want a friend or acquaintance to do their wedding have no set religious beliefs. There is this vague tentative agnostic-paganism prevalent in most of my friends approach to spirituality. There are also family members with more traditional beliefs that you also want to speak to you. I at least want to also honor my own spiritual principles. It makes for this really interesting tension as you try to dump the bullshit but keep enough to meet everyone’s expectations in the shared experience.

The first wedding I did was Christian/Jewish. That was easy i stuck to the old testament. I found this nice reading about “two are better than one. How can one be warm alone?” It was such a sweet idea that just laying together is a spiritual act. I really wanted to use a Jesus quote so i just referred to him as the Sage of Galilee, as i had seen in some Jewish works.

It was a big hit and that led to several more weddings, a Christian/Native American one, an atheist one complete with a quote by Mumia Abu Jamal. I married my former brother-in-law which was particularly flattering because his uncle was a minister.

The most different wedding i did was based in West African spirituality. It seems the essence of ritual is spontaneity to provide room for the spirit to move, so i was largely unscripted. I had folks in the back light candles and say a few words about the bride and groom and then passed the flame across the hall to the bride and groom with everyone saying something. it was sweet.

I’ve done two holiday weddings one on New Years and one on Halloween. The New Years one was tough because i had just separated from Amee two weeks before the wedding. Oh I cried before driving up there, the last thing on earth i wanted to do, it also was fun, got hit on by a former co-worker and got her number even though she had a date with her. Being a wedding minister is a little bit like being a rock star, especially if you’re the drinking and smoking kind of minister, with a novel, spiritually nuanced message, delivered with some panache. The Halloween wedding was perhaps my best. The theme they wanted was horror movies and i worked that into a whole child like thing, they had great music, a ghost story and a fun crowd and the ceremony was a big hit.

This will be my first wedding in Missouri. No license required. Might generate some more gigs. And i love this couple which makes it quite a bit more fun. So this year, divorced though i may be, i was more than ok with being single on the big couples day. I got to celebrate the real reason for the season and feel a part of something special.

Categories: history, religeon

Pontiac

January 29, 2010 Leave a comment

I like to write poetry about historical occurrences that are not widely known but probably should be. Pontiac is one. Most of the forgotten stories of the indian wars are the earlier ones. I like these because the fights were more fair. The wars out west no way was they going to win, but in the midwest for a season or two, sometimes the indians got to win.  He was really the first native american to do cross tribal organizing, outside of an organized confederation, to oppose the expansions of the whites into their territory. When I read an account of Pontiac’s War  I found him really hard to relate to but wanted to tell his story. He wasn’t very sympathetic coming off as kind of a bully, very concerned about his own ego, and a cannibal to boot. But when the siege of Detroit was finally broken I really felt for him. This poem rolled out easily then.

My name is Pontiac

I am a chief like my father before me

Of the Ottawa who won’t bend their knee

At the foot of the whiteman

The French came to our land to trade

And we liked the things they made

Liked the guns and rum

We bartered furs to get us some

Now we’ll use our sharp knives and our guns

Now that the english they have come

They say they beat the french in a war

And we don’t own our land anymore

But we’ve never been conquered

So I’ve gone from tribe to tribe

I try to explain I try to describe

The future that’s coming

Some say the english they are few

In a few forts what can they do?

But the settlers are coming

With their saw and plough and fence

And its only common sense

Their won’t be room for the red man

So we put Detroit under siege

We took twelve more forts like a breeze

And the settlements they are burning

But winter it has finally come

And my warriors they’re fighting is done

They have to hunt to feed their famies

And the war is over

We had our dreams we had our plans

But now its over

The french cannon they never came

The promised troops were just the same

When the white man speaks He speaks in lies

The indians pay The indians die

The english have come

And they’re here to stay

We might fight another day

But for now its over

Categories: history, poetry

Tecumseh

January 24, 2010 1 comment

Tecumseh is one of my biggest heroes and i believe the brightest spiritual force to walk on north america (unless the mormons  are right). He was a shawnee warrior and prophet. He spoke perfect english, was made a full warrior at 13 and killed 5 kentuckians on his first raid on the white invaders of the ohio country. He captured a 6th and when his companions tortured him to death he made an impassioned speech against torture which virtually ended torture by the shawenee. His war club was a bull’s penis with a fist size stone shrunk into one end, he shot one and clubbed 4, again he was 13 years old. He had been ordained the leader of the shawnee at birth by his father a prophet in his own right who prophesied the time of his death, as did tecumseh himself and his brother chikseeka. tecumseh would dress in whiteman clothes and infiltrate forts and armed camps. He would identify people in camp who would die and they died. he led troops in among other engagements the battle of the river raisen (the massacre occurred after he left). He attempted to organize all the tribes of the midwest and south to attack all the whites simultaneously, 15,ooo indians at the same time. He said there would be a meteor and 30 days later an earthquake as the sign of attack. His brother tensakawa foolishly led a small group of shawnee against william henry harrison, the territorial governor of indiana, and was wiped out when his promise of making the indians bullet proof didn’t work out. this ended the rebellion even though the promised meteor and earthquake came as promised. He ended up throwing away his life in the war of 1812 somewhere up in canada. some day i want to finish a rock opera about tecumseh. here is my finished piece:

Tecumseh #1

Pucksinwah was a war chief of the mighty Shawnee

Kept vigil under the stars at the birth of his baby

The mighty meteor left people at a loss

He knew it as the sign of the birth of his son

Panther-Moves-Across

Tecumseh my son I won’t live to see you grown

But you’ll be the greatest warrior the Shawnee have ever known

Could have been a teacher or a prophet but a warrior we demand

When the Whites of the Thirteen Fires come to take our land

And Pucksinwah was a prophet so surely he had known

The fruit he would reap from the seeds that he had sown

As he lay dying struck down by a white man’s gun

He called to Chiksika come here my eldest son

The whites are like an avalanche and never will they cease

So take up now my hatchet and never do make peace

And raise up Tecumseh for he can defend our lands

He’s touched by the Great Spirit, his life is in Her hands

Tecumseh my son I won’t live to see you grown

But you’ll be the greatest warrior the Shawnee have ever known

Could have been a teacher or a prophet but a warrior we demand

For the Whites of the Thirteen Fires have come to take our land

Categories: history, poetry